ELI Forums > Getty Images Letter Forum

Web designer shares his view


Hi Mathew and Oscar,

I agree with you 1000%. Your cause is just and you will prevail in the end. That is because of thousands of people like myself who 1) have also been bullied by Getty and 2) believe in fighting for principle.

I am a web designer who actually never believed that anyone would pay real money for my designs. Several years ago, I came up some of Getty's images and admit in hindsight that it the unauthorized use of someone else's material is wrong. But back then I was an upstart and had no idea of the law or rules for image use. One thing I was aware of however was the ease at which I was able to capture the images. I was not a very technical person back then and was just starting out in the business. Other than the fine print that nobody bothers to reads, there was little or no effort on Getty's part to discourage unauthorized use.  

In hindsight, I see that that lack of effort was part of a larger plan, a plan that prima facie seems to be an income stream for Getty Images.  If Getty were doing it for any reason other than to make dirty money, they would have done a better job of alerting the public and protecting their images. I, for one, would have never used an image that I thought was going to cost me $2,000. I've never paid more than $100 for an image in my life. Ironically, I am actually a client of Getty. After my business grew into legitimacy, I started buying images from Getty and passing the cost on to my clients. But the letters my clients are receiving are for web work done pre-2002. (Isn't there a "doctrine of laches" defense against this tactic of Getty?) Needless to say, out of disgust at Getty, I've started buying my images elsewhere and have encouraged others to do the same. Because who know what else they will do next. Can anyone actually say they have read 'all' of the Getty fine print. 3 years from now you could be getting a letter from some other reason they already have their business plan.

I have had to deal with this issue on 4 different occasions from 4 different clients. In each case Getty went after the client and did not care if the client pleaded that someone else designed the website. Of course that put me in a precarious position. It's hard to be self-righteous at someone else's expense. So, in one case, the client paid and I offered him some free services; in a 2nd case the client and I split the difference, we both had to pay $900 plus $300 in legal fees since his attorney worked out a settlement (which I did not condone, but once again they were going after the client and not me); in another case the client disappeared (I can't find her. I hope that Getty's threats haven't driven her to do something drastic .. the thought is scary); and in the fourth instance, I received the dreaded Getty letter from a client yesterday.

My intent was not to get something for nothing. The websites I designed were generally for $300 or less (In some cases the amount Getty is demanding is over ten times the cost of the entire website .... including domain and hosting). My clients are small business owners with very little money. So giving the client his money back would still leave a very big hole. In each case I removed the the image(s) in question and asked the client to inforn Getty of the same. That didn't matter to Getty. They wanted their dirty money, even if it meant destroying the small business owner.  

I wonder how many otherwise-innocent busniss owners have Getty pushed out of business. I often wonder about the client of mine who disappeared. I wonder what happened to her, and I wonder if her disappearance was due to her Getty-related stress. I am wondering how many other people are suffering silently over this bullying tactic of Getty. People react in different ways when pushed to desperation. Getty should be ashamed. Their actions are dispicable and the persons who carry out their orders should have a hard time looking in the mirrow. Reasonable people know what is right, and this is dead wrong.

This forum has pulled me back into the mainstream because now I feel that the fight is closer to being a fair fight. It's good to know that others are willing to stand on conviction and fight the good fight. I am willing to fight Getty to the end of the earth. So just tell me what I need to do. I'd rather give my money to a good cause than to Getty images. My business has now grown and I have resources, I also have contact with media outlets and also perform PR services.  Getty needs to be exposed. They think they are doing their little dirty work under the cover of darkness. But once light is shed on this, they will be exposed for the crooks they are.

Once again, I admit I was wrong to use the images without authorization, but the punishment should fit the crime, Getty should not be the judge and jury, and every person deserves a warning. What Getty is doing flies in the face of common decency; it's immoral, it's un-American and they will be brought down.  So, to all the Getty collectors and letter-writers, you are on the wrong side of this issue. Getty is going to lose this one.

Here are some other forums that are addressing this issue:

Yours truly


Oscar Michelen:
Dear Extorted:

I am sorry to hear about the stress this Getty issue has put you through. That one client who settled seems to have paid about what most entities that have reached an agreement with Getty have paid.  Very few people are asking Getty to show proof of their license or arrangement with the photographer (who is normally the actual author of the work or holder of the copyright).  As a website developer, you may be in a different legal position than your clients.  Either way, the issue should not be ignored and your clients should look to this and other sites that are trying to address the issue and provide some assistance.  Thanks for the post.  

Oscar Michelen


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